What is the Vagus Nerve and How Does it Impact Your Wellbeing - Custom Fit Physical Therapy
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What is the Vagus Nerve and How Does it Impact Your Wellbeing

Vagus Nerve

In healthcare, there's lots of chatter about the vagus nerve and its relationship to physical, emotional, and psychological wellness. The public should always get curious and learn more when a topic is frequently discussed, as is the case here. Discovering the power of the vagus nerve can impact your health dramatically.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

In Latin, vagus means 'wanderer'; that translation accurately describes what the nerve does throughout the body. The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve; it is the longest nerve in the body and meanders from the brain to the lower abdomen; it connects your brain to many organs and is responsible for the regulation of:

  • Gut and digestion (stomach and intestines)
  • Heart (heart rate)
  • Lungs (respiratory rate)
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest)
  • Immune System
  • Mental health (mood, anxiety, stress)
  • Vasomotor activity (Affecting the narrowing and widening of the blood vessel)
  • Reflex actions (sneezing, swallowing, vomiting etc.)

What is Vagal Tone and Why Does it Matter?

Vagal tone refers to the state of your vagus nerve health and its current activity. Having a higher vagal tone means your body and mind can regulate and relax faster after a stressful event, and you can see why that would be important to your overall health.

Alternatively, when your vagal tone is low or poor, you are easily triggered and in a state of stress more frequently than is healthy. In fact, it means that you are in a perpetual state of fight or flight, which is catastrophic to your body and mind.

Stress in the body significantly affects the vagal tone and increases cortisol levels, increasing fight/flight(sympathetic nervous system). Scars and surgery have an enormous impact on the integrity of the vagus nerve.

Also, overwhelm, and chronic stress negatively impact the vagus nerve and your wellbeing.

Please pay attention to your vagal tone and note there are ways to improve it. In all likelihood, you can assess if you are more often in a fight/flight or rest/reset state of mind.

Consider vagal nerve stimulation as the remedy to low vagal tone.

The Autonomic Nervous System: What's It All About?

The autonomic nervous system is part of the peripheral nervous system that regulates involuntary physiologic processes. 

Nervous System Chart

Recognize and Eradicate Excessive Stress Hormones

The world we live in is becoming increasingly stressful. COVID, political division, natural disasters, home stress, and work stress play a part in our lives. Many areas of life contribute to high-stress hormone levels.

How's your financial health? 

And how's your diet? Do you make healthy food choices? Do you eat too much or too little? Do you exercise enough or too much?

How’s your mindset? Take an inventory of your thoughts, words, and deeds. Any room for improvement? Do you get adequate rest?

If you're in a relationship, is it loving, healthy, and supportive?

The environment can impact you significantly: dirty air, water, pollution, prescription drugs, OTC medication, and industrial toxins take their toll.

Cortisol Chart

Your life is in your hands. Making choices that honor your body will bring balance to your body and peace to your mind.

Who Can Benefit from Vagal Nerve Stimulation?

Because the vagal nerve controls 80% of the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which regulates inflammation, vagal nerve stimulation could benefit most adults. By decreasing stress in the body, vagal nerve stimulation is the key to achieving balance in the body. 

When the sympathetic nervous system is upregulated, you are in fight/flight/freeze mode, negatively impacting the body and mind. Stress is toxic for the body and creates adverse changes in the physical and emotional body, including pain, disease, and emotional instability – all of which relate directly to the vagus nerve. Below is a sampling of conditions linked with low vagal tone:

  • COVID
  • Chronic Disease
  • Decreased Immunity
  • Increases Muscle Tone
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Mood Disorders
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Chronic pain/injury
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Gastro-Intestinal Issues
  • Brain Health - Brain fog
  • Tinnitus

Clinical trials show vagal nerve stimulation is the key to improving the balance of the autonomic nervous system. For a scientific deep dive, refer to the study published in Frontier in Psychiatry, titled "Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders" by Sigrid Breit, Aleksandra Kupferberg, et al.

Vagal nerve stimulation helps to increase the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your rest and digest mode. You're calmer; your stress level decreases, resulting in lower cortisol, heart rate, and breathing rate decreases; meanwhile, digestion increases. 

The Dolphin device, micro point stimulation (MPS), is not only suitable for scar tissue release but also for stimulating the vagus nerve. In addition to addressing the items shown on the list above, it is particularly helpful in addressing back pain, hip pain, migraines, stress, anxiety, and trauma (physical and emotional).

Vagal nerve stimulation via MPS Therapy using Dolphin Neurostim Device regulates the autonomic nervous system, addresses pain and disease, and increases wellness.

What Happens When Your Body is Properly Regulated?

When the body is regulated, your Autonomic nervous system is running optimally. When this occurs, you are in balance and wellness, exhibiting:

  • Health
  • Wellness
  • Recovery
  • Development
  • Peace
  • Homeostasis
  • A sense of calm

The opposite is true when you are unregulated. In that dysfunctional state, you can expect:

  • Disease, Illness
  • Endocrine dysfunction
  • Learning disorders
  • Inability to focus
  • Sensory-spectrum issues
  • Anxiety/PTSD
  • Chronic pain/fatigue

Client Success Story:

Vagal Nerve Stimulation with the Dolphin Device

Client: Teri R., age 72, Plymouth, MA

History of multiple joint replacements, arthritis, decreased balance, and limited walking ability. Client reports left hip pain, decreased strength, stiffness both legs, and feels her balance is being affected.

Client has received traditional physical therapy multiple times, trigger point release, and acupuncture with limited temporary relief before coming to Custom Fit Physical Therapy.

Client presented with significant postural deficits on initial evaluation, poor gait pattern, decreased balance, limited range of motion in both hips, and limited walking ability. She requires an assistive device with ambulation. She has difficulty tolerating prolonged positions.

Solution provided:

Treatment included the use of the Dolphin micro current device for Vagal Nerve Stimulation.  In addition, manual and craniosacral therapy were performed along with breathing drills and proper corrective strategies/exercises.

The client reported a significant decrease in symptoms after 6 sessions.

Clinical Outcomes and Benefits Achieved:

Increased hip mobility, 0/10 pain level, ability to tolerate prolonged positions, ability to return to gardening, increased tolerance of performing household activities, along with increased balance and improvement with walking pattern.

Client shared that she feels the vagal nerve stimulation has made a huge difference in her life and has decreased the inflammation in her body. She is breathing better, has more energy, and has returned to physical activity.

Could low vagal tone be wreaking havoc in your body? 

Consider a discovery call to learn more!


Martha Tassinari

Martha Tassinari

Martha graduated from Northeastern University, in Boston Massachusetts, with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 1994 and later studied Craniosacral and Neurokinetic Therapy. But it wasn't until she was on the other side of the table, to heal her body following two lung cancer surgeries that she found her true calling. For years she was paralyzed for days on end with severe headaches and shoulder pain, unable to work or move. Pain medication gave her temporary relief, but it never got to the root of the problem. With courage, grit and determination, and an excellent physical therapist, she overcame adversity to heal her body. And this point; she decided to dedicate her life to making sure other women don't struggle in pain for years as she did. Her mission is to empower women to discover the root cause of dysfunction and heal at all levels – body, mind, and spirit.
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